Thursday, June 30, 2016

Wedding in Fire Country - Darren Bifford (Nightwood Editions)

Today's book of poetry:
Wedding in Fire Country.  Darren Bifford.  Nightwood Editions.  Gibsons, British Columbia.  2012.

In yet another example of just how buried in the sand my head can be Today's book of poetry is only now encountering Darren Bifford's 2012 publication Wedding in Fire Country.  Some things are really worth waiting for.

Milo and the research team insisted I read a couple of the reviews that appeared when Wedding in Fire Country was released but I'm not sure they read the same book I did.  Those reviewers should have been raving, Bifford is brilliant.

These poems have tender precision on the ends of a raptor's muscle ripping talons.  These poems demand respect.  Bifford can barely contain his many influences as Robert Kroetsch and Robert Lowell spill out of the back court, Czeslaw Milosz and Walt Whitman power it up and down the wings and then big old nasty William the Faulkner dances down the middle with his boozy wisdom.  Oh ya, they're all in here along with Creely and the Beats.  But Bifford never steals from his heroes, he gives them the respectful and polite nod and moves on from one breathless idea to the next.  

Possibilities of Prometheus

Did he really think he'd get away with it?
That no one was watching?

It could have been Prometheus was after
Something else all along -- not that fire --
But made a mistake -- wrong drawer! --

And fumbled for whatever
Would fit his hand.
The fire fell

Because he tripped, stumbled 
On a loose stone, and managed to strike
Humanity across their heads.

And like a dynamite wick
History's cord was lit.


Some of these poems hit you like sunshine does when you walk out of the darkness of an afternoon movie.  That CRACK of daylight/information hits like a smack.

Today's book of poetry hit a proverbial wall about a week ago where all poems started to look a little like the same disappointment but Darren Bifford has snapped us out of that.  Wedding in Fire Country is exactly the tonic we've needed.  In a world where there has been a dearth of heart recently we discover that the talented Mr. Bifford has a heart as big as we need and it is right out there at the end of his articulate sleeve.  It might be hunted by bears, wolves or cougars and haunted by fire, nightmare or impending disaster but this heart is in the game.

Today's book of poetry gets future hopeful when we encounter books this fine.  There is an army of excellent young poets hammering away in Canada and Bifford certainly stakes a claim with Wedding in Fire Country.  Bifford had us on the edges of our seats during this morning's read.  Our Jr. Editor, Kathryn, read the hell out of Bifford's long poem "Letters to Milosz" and confirmed what I'd thought from the start.  Kathryn is a pistol and Darren Bifford's Wedding in Fire Country is delightfully dazzling poetry of a velocity you don't often see.

Crowded Theatre

There was a time I thought
I was all alone
and free. I never imagined

growing older, weaker;
I imagined being famous and humble.

Now it is as if I'm sitting
in a crowded theatre, in a ratty red chair
too tiny for my legs, its armrests too narrow to share.

Even when I look behind me
people are pushed around the other way.

I've come this far, reached out and clung
to your damp hand.
And we hold each other here

though the building has begun to shake,
and the show is not the one we asked for.


Quiet foreboding. Bifford has that nailed.  Frankly, Today's book of poetry was a bit flustered (but not frustrated), by how familiar this new world was.  Bifford is able to dial into a deep folkloric pool and emerge with new understanding of old wisdom.

Today's book of poetry really would like you readers to think of this blog as a "taster's menu" because it simply isn't possible to get to the several main courses a good book offers.  Wedding in Fire Country is as good an example of this paradox as any we've encountered.  Main course here, main course there.  Taste this...


What is that knocking, mother?
It's the wind's knuckles rapping the window, my son.

What is that squeaking, mother?
That's the procession of the mice within the walls, my son.

What is that rotting in the basement, mother?
Those are harvest apples in a bucket, my son.

Who are the men crouching at the door, mother?
They are my friends, my son. And they're coming.


The best part of our mandate here at Today's book of poetry is finding gems and sharing them with you readers.   Wedding in Fire Country is the sort of book that can make you fall in love with poetry again, instantly.  These poems are smart like a challenge, clear and refreshing like a quenching tonic.

Today's book of poetry couldn't get enough.

Darren Bifford

Darren Bifford is the author of Wedding in Fire Country (Nightwood Editions, 2012) and Hermit Crab, forthcoming from Baseline Press. He lives in Montreal.

Reading this collection, I feel communicated with, and indeed, carrying it around for several weeks to dip into during my spare moments, I came to feel companionate towards it, as though the poems’ frequent depictions of people enjoying each other’s company had bled into my consciousness, tingeing my worldview with its sociability. I suspect that Wedding in Fire Country will have a similar effect on anyone who spends some real time with it, and I heartily recommend doing so.
-Stewart Cole, The Urge: Reviewing New Canadian Poetry

“Nightmare” leaves you with a chill down your back with the last quote “they are my friends my son. And they are coming.” Bifford asks the question: is this the beginning of the nightmare or the end? These poems do not come together like one big story, but rather like stories told around a campfire; some happy, some scary, all intriguing.
-Thomas Stubbs, Salty Ink

Darren Bifford
Tree Reading Series, Ottawa
Video: Tree Reading Series



Poems cited here are assumed to be under copyright by the poet and/or publisher.  They are shown here for publicity and review purposes.  For any other kind of re-use of these poems, please contact the listed publishers for permission.

We here at TBOP are technically deficient and rely on our bashful Milo to fix everything.  We received notice from Google that we were using "cookies"
and that for our readers in Europe there had to be notification of the use of those "cookies.  Please be aware that TBOP may employ the use of some "cookies" (whatever they are) and you should take that into consideration.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Dawn Night Fall - Gordon Grigsby (Evening Street Press)

Today's book of poetry:
Dawn Night Fall.  Gordon Grigsby.  Evening Street Press.  Dublin, Ohio.  2012.

Dawn Night Fall, by Gordon Grigsby

Gordon Grigsby certainly does know how to pull on those old heart strings.  Dawn Night Fall takes an uncanny swat at your emotional thermostat, slowly and carefully brings things to a boil.

Grigsby is all old school about laying ground work, setting the stage, and we appreciate that sort of thing here at Today's book of poetry.  The pace is never rushed, these narratives don't let it all out on the backstretch but save something for the finish.

After Winesburg

When the last bar closes
and the last pickup heads out of town,
small towns waken
to the drone of the Interstate
like a far-off flight
of World War Two bombers
endlessly passing.

Old-timers remember the quiet
of 1950. Now
they've sold their farms to companies
with names like covers for the CIA--Lucent,
Patriot Bank, Homes Incorporated. The young
have gone away, leaving
small fairground bleachers peeling,
a car on blocks in the front yard.

Now and then, at the all-night station
out by the highway, silver island
of mercury lamps,
the young husband, a farmer
at his second job, looks up
from the office's small TV
and gets shot in the head
for a dozen ten-dollar bills.

The widow stands at the bedroom window
of their second-floor
small apartment, looking
at the empty street. Her heart's so dark
she thinks there's something
wrong with her.
Flies from the giant
egg farm outside town
buzz against the glass. Next week
she'll leave the restaurant
and go to the city. She lies down.
Her mind quivers with the window till dawn.


Sometimes it's just a feeling you get when reading a book, Dawn Night Fall has somehow, without permission, ingratiated itself into my movie, these poems now feel familiar.  The best poems can do that, transport you past witnessing and reading and into experiencing.

Grigsby covers some sad ground in Dawn Night Fall and we follow along knowing that we are creating new memory.  These poems hum with a steady pulse, a confident certainty that they know where they are headed.  

One of Your Pictures

It was around when soldiers closed the campus,
and a few years before and after--
your wild time, trying to escape
the heavy-drinking minister
who was your father, not beatings but
sweetness, helplessness, shame,
escape loving him too much, being caught
in that sad life for life. So our brief
affection and escape in your quiet second-floor  
     back room
a few blocks from the tear gas.

But a few years later, long after
that fumbling then perfect ecstasy
in the car beside the road to Colter's farm,
when you'd gone away far from home and him,
he won -- all turned inward, full of guilt,
church-obsessed, tightly married, anxious
and afraid, asking me
in a single late letter to forget you
and burn any pictures.

                                           You were guilty
of nothing but need and mistakes, the one
I was close to and needed in my turn,
body and mind. I can't forget you
until death makes us forget
everything. Can't get rid of

that small old carved brown vanity
with the three fixed mirrors
you gave me when you left,
where one of your pictures could see yourself
beautifully alive. I hope you're mostly happy
out there far away
in this one life that everyone secretly knows
is all we get.


This morning's read at the Today's book of poetry offices was a classic.  Some of these poems paint pretty broad pictures, unroll, unspool, unrelenting as they gallop over time and heart-space, Grigsby gave our readers lots to play with.

Dawn Night Fall is an ode to common sense, these poems track as straight as a ruler, these poems suggest that Grigsby is a reasonable man.  Reasonable poets are like flying fish, they exist, but you don't see them often.

Work, Love, Salt

Diner empty, one or two workmen
bent at the counter,
the waitresses stand --
how often I've seen them --
at the end of each table
refilling the salt. How many

have sweated, broken their hands,
ached in their beds
to give us each day a thimbleful
of what keeps the blood
tasting like the sea. That sea

we can't breathe
any more, the infinite
washing constantly through us,
but must take in scattered grains of light
that melt on the tongue -- moments

of the flavor
we used to lick as we cried
from the corners of our mouths
and find now on breasts
and thighs -- origins, separations,
griefs. Three years, like kids
surprised at the pain,
and we're bound tighter
than when we were married. Eat
bread and salt and speak the truth:

It's darkness we pour
into our lives as into a wound
in creation's side.


The poetry of Gordon Grigsby is bejewelled with moments of emotional honesty, the hard edge that runs between what the heart wants and the head knows.  

Today's book of poetry liked it a lot.

Gordon Grigsby

GORDON GRIGSBY was born in Washington, D.C., and grew up near Philadelphia. After high school, he went to the Navy, Gettysburg College, Penn State University, the Army, and the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Since Wisconsin he has lived in the Midwest and has taught at The Ohio State University. He lives now in Mt. Air, north of Columbus. He has taught in Iran and Malaysia and has traveled widely.
    He has published poems in Prairie Schooner, West Branch, The Louisville Review, West Coast Review, The Mickle Street Review, Great River Review, Southern Poetry Review, Berkeley Poets Cooperative, Stonecloud, The Ohio Journal, and other magazines; a few translations (Rilke, Borges, Trakl) in Cornfield Review and The Ohio Journa; and critical prose in Antioch Review, Per Se, South Atlantic Quarterly, and other journals. His poems have appeared in several anthologies, including AndWhat Rough Beast, Poems at the End of the Century; Poetry Ohio; and Fresh Wster.
    He has published three books: Tornado Watch, Mid-Ohio Elegies, and Dawn Night Fall ; one chapbook in the Greatest Hits Series; and Sacramento, presented to a class of freshman in 1995. Tornado Watch won a Dasher Poetry Prize in Ohio.

In lines that are taut, lean and lucid, Gordon Grigsby’s poems embody the substrate and the epic story of the world from which we came and in which we now struggle to survive. This is a necessary, indeed an essential book for our time.
     — Ernest Lockridge’s most recent book: Skeleton Key to the Suicide of My Father Ross Lockridge, Jr, author of Raintree County

In poem after piercing poem—“The Light Here,” “An Ocean Sound,” “Nancy’s Sandwich Shop Heightened Consciousness”—Grigsby weaves our intense human moments of love, sorrow, or joy into the beauty and grandeur of our indifferent earth. The art of his vision is unique and invaluable.          — Julian Markels, author of The Marxian Imagination

Like James Wright before him, Gordon Grigsby is an essential Mid-Western poet, a hard-scrabbled farmer of words, a steel-worker tending to the furnaces of an imagination that flares in darkness: "the praised madness that trembles the air." The geography of Ohio, the names of its vanished Indian tribes, the smell of a dead child and the poisoned rain, are here given their full measure of terrible beauty. 
     — Michael Salcman, author of The Clock Made of Confetti and The Enemy of Good Is Better 

Dawn Night Fall explores the interplay between sorrow and hope, tragic realities and the mind’s freedom, through startlingly original images and ideas. As in Walden, Grigsby uses his house on a small river in Mt. Air, Ohio as a way into the natural world, ancient and personal history, world travels, and complex combinations of pain and luminosity: ashes of a premature baby, woman and children waiting in corrugated tin shanties, a loved father lonely in Sun City, the glow of needles on a forest floor, streetlamp glint on everyone’s hair. Readers are richly rewarded for his extraordinary vision. 
      — Jan Schmittauer, Associate Professor, Ohio University


Poems cited here are assumed to be under copyright by the poet and/or publisher.  They are shown here for publicity and review purposes.  For any other kind of re-use of these poems, please contact the listed publishers for permission.

We here at TBOP are technically deficient and rely on our bashful Milo to fix everything.  We received notice from Google that we were using "cookies"
and that for our readers in Europe there had to be notification of the use of those "cookies.  Please be aware that TBOP may employ the use of some "cookies" (whatever they are) and you should take that into consideration.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Disturbing the Buddha - Barry Dempster (Brick Books)

Today's book of poetry:
Disturbing the Buddha.  Barry Dempster.  Brick Books.  London, Ontario, 2016.

Barry Dempster has been nominated for the Governor General's Award twice.  Today's book of poetry tackles Dempster's latest, his fifteenth book of poetry, Disturbing the Buddha from the formidable Brick Books stable.

Dempster is no stranger to Today's book of poetry, we have several of his titles on our shelves:

Positions To Pray In, Guernica (1989)
The Unavoidable Man, Quarry Press (1990)
Letters from a Long Illness with the World, Brick Books (1993)
The Burning Alphabet, Brick Books (2005)
Love Outlandish, Brick Books (2009)
Invisible Dogs, Brick Books (2013)

Today's book of poetry has been following Barry Dempster for a long time.  His books never fail to be good reads, this sort of intelligent diligence always delivers.

The thing with Dempster is that he has a polymorphous sense of curiosity.

Be Drunk

First sip has a way of loosening
knots, those clusters of nerves
nagging like bow ties, cutting off
my breath. After a good swallow
my legs shred some texture - hushabye.
Knuckles shoo their useless k's.
From here on in it's one grand gush -
elbows turned to slush.

Be drunk, Baudelaire proclaimed,
the poet crowning. Evening bobs
on rambunctious little waves,
the bottle cradled in my arms
a conch shell, my brain well
on its way to a saint's gibberish,
surrendering my stevedore will,
my Calvinist settle.

The second glass has a bubbly
disposition, flirty, faster
than a somersault. By the third
the couch is surfing. At four,
I'm on the floor playing Kitty-
Kitty. Can't remember five. Come
morning, daisies will be growing
from my lips, my legs squirming
two feet from my hips.
I'll be nameless, like a beast
Adam forgot to add to his scroll.


Disturbing the Buddha is mature, 10,000 hour work.  There are no rough edges on these babies.   Dempster has worked these until they are smooth to the touch.

Dempster is comfortable exploring the word of God and the water-skiing prowess of a Barbie doll, Boy George is in here, the Thompson Twins as well.  Beatrix Potter too.  Dempster calls on an honour roll of guests and characters to flesh out his world view and he can be both playful and serious as a heart-attack in the same poem.


I decide to call them swallows,
liking how far out my lips go,
and then the reprieve, that o sound
an actual swallow might make
as it tightens its wings.
A swarm of them, not just a flock -  lassos
flinging themselves on distance.

The last time I fell in love it truly
felt like falling. One minute I was
throwing myself at the breeze,
the next landing so hard
even bone caved in. I lay there
shattered, tacking the sky
for explanations, swallowing
endless amounts of grief. Eventually,
I couldn't tell the difference between
a bird and the word. I wanted
to call it something extravagant
like disenchantment or self-destruction,
but settled on thud instead.


Any poet who tips a hat to P.K. Page is going to earn points here at Today's book of poetry.  Dempster brings in Mark Rothko, W.B. Yeats, Sylvia Plath, Walt Whitman, Ann Sexton, Milton, even Amy Winehouse makes one last breathless appearance.  Dempster likes a crowd.  

Actually Dempster deftly uses these touchstone public figures as a launching pad, as both bait and and prop.  If Barry Dempster is curious about it - he will make you curious about it as well.

This morning's reading was held in our non-air-conditioned dungeon/offices.  No one had their voice raise much above a whisper for fear of the heat.  We kept the blinds down.  It was almost liturgical.   The quietly intense poems of Disturbing the Buddha are never sermonizing though, Dempster's poems find the ground between conversation and lesson and let you in.

5/ Wu-Men

The Great Way has no gate,
no buzzer, no knob, no
iron bars that only breath
can penetrate. It's an entry
wound, skin pushed to the limits,
like the Red Sea's shores. Look
at all the traffic - swallows
hugging their speed, cruise ships
shaking their Jell-O-green pools,
genies shooting
skateboard flares. One toe at a time
and you're through, propelled by
desire's tiniest thrust. One
juicy thought and your consciousness
explodes. It's where your loneliness
was already heading,
where stamps have been flying
on perforated wings. Forget
the foolishness of choice.
You haven't had an unconflicted thought
since your mother's breast morphed
into a plastic Goofy cup.
You knew then and there, fate
was an openness to
folly. the Buddha so
disturbed, his belly rolled
across the lawn like a 
freshly fallen orange.


Disturbing the Buddha is another in a long line of very satisfying books of poetry from Barry Dempster.  This is how the pros do it.

Barry Dempster

Barry Dempster, twice nominated for the Governor General’s Award, is the author of fourteen previous collections of poetry. His collection The Burning Alphabet won the Canadian Authors’ Association Chalmers Award for Poetry in 2005. In 2010, he was a finalist for the Ontario Premier’s Award for Excellence in the Arts and in 2014 he was nominated for the Trillium Award for his novel, The Outside World. He lives in Holland Landing, Ontario.

Barry Dempster
at Words Aloud 9
Video: Words Aloud


Poems cited here are assumed to be under copyright by the poet and/or publisher.  They are shown here for publicity and review purposes.  For any other kind of re-use of these poems, please contact the listed publishers for permission.

We here at TBOP are technically deficient and rely on our bashful Milo to fix everything.  We received notice from Google that we were using "cookies"
and that for our readers in Europe there had to be notification of the use of those "cookies.  Please be aware that TBOP may employ the use of some "cookies" (whatever they are) and you should take that into consideration.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Barking & Biting - Sina Queyras (Wilfrid Laurier University Press)

Today's book of poetry:
Barking & Biting.  Sina Queyras.  Selected and with an introduction by Erin Wunker.  Laurier Poetry Series.  Wilfrid Laurier University Press.  Waterloo, Ontario.  2016.

"I am not interested in other words for honey. I am interested in honey."
      - Sina Queyras, "Water, Water Everywhere"

Queyras wants to be clear and she is.  This is a straight shot across the bow, full of intent.

Today's book of poetry likes a list poem and Sina Queyras gives us a lemon-tart sparkler with "If Only."  Poetry this smart is always going to turn heads and if Queyras has her way those heads will be more sympathetic, empathetic, reasonable.

If Only

If only men were more feminine. If only Judaism were
more feminine. If only industry were more feminine.
If only bridges were more feminine. If only trucks
were more feminine. If only airplanes were more
feminine. If only fruit were more feminine. If only
engines were more feminine. If only economics were
more feminine. If only test tubes were more femi-
nine. If only physicists were more feminine. If only
space were more feminine. If only Hollywood were
more feminine. If only America were more feminine.
If only farmyards were more feminine. If only the
weather were more feminine. If only Islam were more
feminine. If only engineers were more feminine. If
only city planners were more feminine. If only femi-
nists were more feminine. If only Catholicism were
more feminine. If only politicians were more femi-
nine. If only astronauts were more feminine. If only
corporations were more feminine. If only women
were more feminine. If only what was feminine were
firm. If only there were slots. If only things fit inside.


Barking & Biting is a tasting menu of sorts brought to you courtesy of the deft hand of Erin Wunker. Wunker's choices nip and tuck from some much longer works to bring us surprisingly self contained poetic essays on gender with both Holly Golightly and Virginia Woolf among the cast of luminaries.

And exactly as a tasting menu should, these bites leave us wanting more.

Sina Queyras writes poems that evolve in front of your eyes, they play with being short stories, novellas, epic.  Queyras has much to say about gender in these poems and her articulate charms add gravitas but never vitriol.

From Meanwhile, elsewhere, otherwise
     "Some other poets and the puddle"

          'When for no reason I could discover, every-
           thing suddenly became unreal.'
                                                              Virginia Woolf

She didn't notice the puddle. She was busy unravel-
ling the pavement. She clip-clopped past. She had
serious business. The words in her head were pleas-
ing her. She liked the sun. The smell of meat sizzling
called out to her. Language needed to be parted,
ordered. The children irritated her as they played in the
puddle. They were noisy. It was not her business.
There were no books in the playground, but there
were shapes to things. Sentences combusted. No
one recognizes. The words in her head grew cold.
They needed a rest. Her feet had an idea. She
thought they meant business. She saw herself in
everything and everything was good.

She saw the puddle as pewter. She swallowed it sweet
as figs. She saw it nestled in the cleavage of plum
girls. She held them over her head and cracked their

She saw the universe in the puddle. She saw a slide
show of organic compounds. She saw the key and 
the key fit. She saw the genital-less amoeba as a
hero. She put her ear to the puddle but she was no
naive child; she was listening for the rumble of
trucks, not the sweet musing of water beetles.

She waited until winter and when the puddle froze
over, she glided across it. She sat in the summer heat
and was content. She lifted the puddle and slid it
down her arm like pancake. She invited a girl gang
over and drank it. She had no puddles on her street.
She had no street. She leapt over the puddle on
horseback in pursuit. She saw streams of Nazis skim-
ming book black across the surface. She thought she
heard the apostles and so kneeled down to pee. She
dove in, scraping her nose. She had her father drain
all the puddles in the village. She splashed. She leapt
and bombed it with rocks. She floated and toppled
heads of Barbie dolls. She walked around. Then she
walked around again. She heard men flinging mud
and arranged a blanket of oak leaves across the
surface. She did a cartwheel. She knit a scarf out of
the letters R and E which she wound round and
round and round.


Queyras comes up with a phrase that Today's book of poetry has never encountered before when she says that "Lyric Conceptualism's goal is to create openings rather than closures."  This quote from the Sira Queyras poem Afterward: Lyric Conceptualism, A Manifesto in Progress is a succinct summation of the idea of these poems.  But it doesn't quite address the feeling that they create, this feels like a conversation that all are welcomed to listen to.  As robustly feminist as Queyras can quite rightly be, there is no matriarchal man-bashing, compassionate intelligence reigns here.

Kathleen, our Jr. Editor, took control of this morning's reading and made sure to include everyone.   Sina Queyras sailed around the room and over our heads like a wise hot-air balloon.

Proverbs of Hell

The body sublime, the heart SUV.
Fuel your plow with the blood of war.
Drive your car on the bones of the dead.
The road of CO2S leads to rising seas.
He who is preoccupied with the afterlife pisses on the present.
So the price of oil goes, so goes the number of wars.
A fool sees product; a wise man sees shade.
He who sullies the earth sullies himself; he who dulls the sun
     dulls his senses.
The future is the reversal of destruction.
Even a bee's too busy.
Profits are measure by the dollar, but read profit cannot be
A wholesome food comes in fewer than sixteen pieces from
     seven states.

Prisons are built with the bricks of luxury items.

Let man wear the fell of the hemp see, woman the fleece of
The bird a thought, the spider a path, the mind the means.

What was once proved and known is now only rarely imagined.
What was once used to imagine now operates software.
The rat, the mouse, the starling, the squirrel; the lion, the
     tyger, the elephant, the whale -- only the useless, or root
     less, survive, otherwise; extinction porn.
The cistern pollutes, the fountain overflows, is of no use to
Once thought filled immensity; now it purchases goods.
To speak your mind is to be unpatriotic; to be human, then,
     is to be unpatriotic.
All things imagined must be images of truth; all things
     created must be fragments of our imagination.

The eagle never wreaked so much havoc as when he
     submitted to the whims of profit.
The eagle provides for himself, but the air provides for the
Want in the morning. Buy at noon. Buy in the evening. Buy
     in your sleep.
He who has suffered you to impose on him knows the market.
As the plow follows the markets, so the market follows itself.
The tygers of the market are no wilier than the corporate dogs.
Expect poison form the standing mind.
The coals of Wall Street, the bricks of despair, the last drop,
     the last grain.
As the cat chooses the warmest place to curl her bones so the
     wise man seeks home.
To create a new kind of flower is the splice of genes.
The best wine is the oldest, the best thought is the first.
Cheerfulness is the hammer of the right.

The expressway is a straight line, but the crooked road
     remains the road of genius.

Where man is, nature is bereft.
Where nature is not man, is not known.
Where nature is not natural, man is not man.

As a dog returns to his vomit, so a citizen to his belief in
More is destruction.
Less is the wisdom of the future.
Abundance is all context.
The end of thought is the end of man is the end of earth.
In absentia, in absence, in obsolesce, or obnoxious.
Where nature is, man is not enough.
Enough, or too much. Too much.

Go forth and undo harm.

Go forth and do.


How's that for a taste of the menu.  Queyras bounces around ideas like cartwheeling jackhammer.

Barking & Biting is the first poetry by Queyras that Today's book of poetry has encountered but we'll certainly be searching for her others now.

Sina Queyras

Sina Queyras is an accomplished poet and essayist. She edited the first anthology of Canadian poetry published by an American press (Open Field: 30 Contemporary Canadian Poets). Between 2005 and 2007 she co-curated the path-breaking feminist Belladonna* reading series in New York and was instrumental in bringing Canadian and American poets into conversation. She has published six books of poetry and a novel, Autobiography of Childhood (2011). She received the Pat Lowther Award and a Lambda Literary Award for Lemon Hound (2006). Her most recent book of poetry is MxT (2014).

Erin Wunker is the chair of the board of the national non-profit social justice organization Canadian Women in the Literary Arts (CWILA) and co-founder, writer, and managing editor of the feminist academic blog Hook and Eye: Fast Feminism, Slow Academe. She teaches Canadian literature and culture at Dalhousie University. Her book The Feminist Killjoy Handbook will be published in the fall of 2016.

Sina Queyras

This video is from Fred Wah's Parlimentary Poet Laureate Series.


Poems cited here are assumed to be under copyright by the poet and/or publisher.  They are shown here for publicity and review purposes.  For any other kind of re-use of these poems, please contact the listed publishers for permission.

We here at TBOP are technically deficient and rely on our bashful Milo to fix everything.  We received notice from Google that we were using "cookies"
and that for our readers in Europe there had to be notification of the use of those "cookies.  Please be aware that TBOP may employ the use of some "cookies" (whatever they are) and you should take that into consideration.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Your Daily Horoscope - Nik De Dominic (New Michigan Press)

Today's book of poetry:
Your Daily Horoscope.  Nik De Dominic.  New Michigan Press.  Tucson, Arizona.  2015.

De Dominic [Nov 2015]

Nik De Dominic has been hereby declared as Master of Horoscopology by Today's book of poetry. Your Daily Horoscope is true-that one the most thoroughly enjoyable and entertaining romps we've been on in a while.

Splendidly playful and deadly serious, Your Daily Horoscope is a first rate page turner.  If these horoscopes replaced our daily grog in the newspapers the world would be a very different place.

Your Daily Horoscope [someone will send...]

Someone will send you a .gif
of a clown tying a noose
around his neck to a sapling.
He will then water the sapling.
Everywhere a .gif a gift.


To tell you how funny these poems are would be a bit like doing an "Ali-shuffle," brilliant mis-direction.  Watch my feet while I disconnect your noggin.  Nik De Dominic could be a stand-up comic with poetry punch lines.  It's like he has absorbed the best of Richard Brautigan's surreal joy and stewed it up all modern and relevant.  

Today's book of poetry had a few other comparisons that leap to mind, it is possible that De Dominic has studied at the church of Ron Koertge, but we'll skip the comparisons and tell you that these poems cook.  Stone cold, Nik De Dominic can cook with the best.

Today's book of poetry's only complaint with this collection is that it is too short, we could have read these gems all day long.

Your Daily Horoscope [twenty years ago...]

Twenty years ago Dizzy had some racket with Impalas
and could have keys cut to VIN numbers. A perfumed
icon hanging from the rear view as we drove around
doing crimes. Now I ride the 794 to work and I think
Dizzy is dead. Everyone on this line is infirmed somehow,
walkers and wheelchairs, boils and bald, reeks of salad dressing, and I
am trying to figure out why my problem is. Big and beautiful
blonde boys bring their bibles on the bus, sit closely
together in starched white short shirt sleeves, murmur to each other
secrets of the after this. It is a bible, the thing Mormons morm from?
The strip-mall church off San Fernando, Pentecostal something or other,
is giving away food and there is a line out the door,
up both sides of the block. A little girl with black bangs hangs
in her parents' hands over a pack of pigeons, brethren grieving
over a fallen and headless brother, and she spits at them to scatter.
When I get home still afternoon we lie in bed and let the house go
from day to blue. I tell you I read today that you are everyone
in your dreams. No shit, you say,  who else would you be?


Nik De Dominic is one Mother of Invention, these poems snap, crackle and pop like old timey flash bulbs.  We had so much fun at this morning's reading that we tackled some of these poems twice.   Milo, our head tech, was particularly enthralled and in his finest form.

When Today's book of poetry tells you that these poems were easy going we mean it as a compliment.  They welcome you in like they were looking for you.  Nik De Dominic has found a voice that sounds as natural as a siblings, rings as true as a straight shot always does.  This is no small feat but from the first poem the reader is comfortable with De Dominic's cool, clear and clean voice, the cavalier comes later.

A Note For Reading Your Daily Horoscopes

The preceding horoscopes are intended for purely
entertainment purposes. I make no claims, beyond
the claims I've made above, about the possible
outcome of your life. It is important to remember
that the horoscope, like all things, is metaphor, and its
application completely subjective -- that language, too,
is dynamic. Flexible. Destabilized, even. Something
about signs and signified, yada, yada (lol, Plato).
When I say you sometimes I mean me; when I say I
sometimes I mean you. Sometimes when I say we I
mean you and I and other times I mean well, it's sort of
royal, so I mean me. But other times, I really do mean I
and I really do mean you and I really do mean me and
I really do mean we. further, for one stargazer, a new
job may mean getting fired. For another, a new job may
mean losing an uncle. For yet another, a new job may
mean, literally, a new job --  like in middle management
at a rental car agency. What I will say is this, something
good will happen for you soon. I am sure of it.  So will
something terrible.  That, I am also sure.


It's a real pleasure to be able to tell you about books like Nik De Dominic's Your Daily Horoscope. 
These poems really do scamper across the desk with considerable glee and purpose.  This is beautiful and audacious poetry with the grace of a cheetah - and then that bite.

Today's book of poetry flat out loved Your Daily Horoscope.

Nik De Dominic

Nik De Dominic believes in the stars. Work has appeared in Los Angeles Review, Harpur Palate, Guernica, DIAGRAM, and elsewhere. He is a founding editor of The Offending Adam and a poetry editor of New Orleans Review. He lectures in The Writing Program at the University of Southern California and lives in Los Angeles with is partner Janna and their leash aggressive dog, Dinal.

I want to read one of these in my newspaper daily and then when they're done to get them in my newspaper all over again from the beginning. They are keen, talky, funny, immediate, clear, kind, and more. Welcome to a beguiling set of new constellations.
     - Aimee Bender

The future cannot exist without the invention of debt, debt that bonds us with time beyond the immediate. Oh, and we owe much to the prescient prestigitation of Nik De Dominic's imperative and dimension-warping poems that, time and time again, rip time a new portal. And predictably you always and already know that when you read this book you will find yourself finding yourself in those past pasts and in those future futures. And there you are being struck dumb by the brilliant anticipatory insight and elegant grace of this work -- the smart smartness, the dumbest of luck.
      - Michael Martone



Poems cited here are assumed to be under copyright by the poet and/or publisher.  They are shown here for publicity and review purposes.  For any other kind of re-use of these poems, please contact the listed publishers for permission.

We here at TBOP are technically deficient and rely on our bashful Milo to fix everything.  We received notice from Google that we were using "cookies"
and that for our readers in Europe there had to be notification of the use of those "cookies.  Please be aware that TBOP may employ the use of some "cookies" (whatever they are) and you should take that into consideration.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Impressions of an Expatriate: China - Peter Jelen (BareBack Press)

Today's book of poetry:
Impressions of an Expatriate: China.  Peter Jelen.  BareBack Press.  Hamilton, Ontario.  2014.

Impressions of an Expatriate: China is one of the more interesting poetry travelogues Today's book of poetry has encountered for a while.  Peter Jelen's all too short book is a celebration of his time in Shanghai, Hong Kong, China.  He loved every minute of it except when he didn't.

For those of you have never lived in another culture with a different and difficult language, Jelen gets it right.  He knows that the small things are often the most amazing, the little wonders often the most startling.  In another incarnation Impressions of an Expatriate: China might just as easily have been titled A Study in Manners.

The Leper

She sat in a rusty wheelchair
at the end of an overpass,
no hands, no feet, no nose
a sign strung around her neck:
I unplugged my earphones
dipped into my pocket,
pulled out a couple kuai,
but then paused.
how did she get here?
If she has no feet,
she couldn't have walked.
If she has no hands,
she couldn't have wheeled herself.
And shit,
if she has no fingers
she couldn't have written the sign.
I kept my change,
continued on
and was later glad I had.
When I asked one of my Shanghainese co-workers,
a very sweet girl named Sunny,
about this leper at the train station,
she told me the leper had an owner
and was carried there day after day to beg.
Sunny said "Don't give her any money,
it's a business,
people buy the deformed and use them as beggars."
With the foreboding tone of fortune teller
she predicted, "You will see worse,
much worse."

She was right.
I would.
I did.


Jelen is not walking on the sunny side of the street, he is writing from a tradition of street-wise and unadorned poetry which is entirely suited, form meeting function.  When called for we can breathe in the rancid funk from the over-ripe back alleys Jelen sojourns through.

You might get the wrong first impressions of China if you only see the unvarnished larceny Jelen gets up to.  Today's book of poetry is convinced Jelen loved/loves China, but as Jelen makes clear, he is wandering a little off the regular tourist route.  And we are the richer for it.

Garbage On My Head

I was strolling through the crowded
malodorous back alleys of Wuban
thoroughly enjoying
just being there.

It was so unlike Shanghai,
it was a place where Internet cafes
and telephone rooms were still a necessity.

It was a place without well-oiled sanitation,
where one would have to walk down the banks of the
Yangtze and dump one's own garbage still.

But some people were lazy sometimes.
Some people didn't want to walk all the way down
to the mighty river and dump their garbage.

Some people, I discovered,
dumped their garbage out of their apartment windows
and it rained down on passersby
rained down on me
fusty egg shells,
slimy rice,
oily noodles,
soggy bok choy.

I puked right then and there.

Then I drank some more
and forgot all about it
until now.


Peter Jelen's experience of being an expatriate in China opens up the world, Today's book of poetry has forgotten the source of the direct quote and my research staff are currently napping on the couch, the idea that you never really see your own country/society until you've lived outside of it remains true.  When Jelen talks about manners, customs and practise it is the west that comes under real scrutiny.

These poems are immediate, some of them slap you up both sides of your head at the same time they are that quick.  Poems like these come off of the page like Foghorn Leghorn making some big pronouncement or carnies barking for your attention  --  but much like time abroad  --  it's the 
distillation of all that new information that provides the most interest.

Shanghai Cocaine

The best cocaine I've ever had
was in Shanghai,
not because the coke was
of exceptional quality
like a prize winning vintage wine
or something.

I just mean that knowing
I would be blindfolded
and set in front of a firing squad
with one last Camel clenched between my teeth
if I got caught with it
gave it an extra


Clearly Jelen is no angel and this no bible, this is a road map of note, a guidebook that happens to be a journey of poetic self discovery.  Jelen understands that there is both great freedom and unseen barriers when living abroad and as readers we get to tag along without having to carry any luggage.

When I travel, or read poetry, I want to get off the main street and avoid MacDonalds.  Give me a back lane and some street food.  I want to hear the patois, the sound of grease hitting a skillet.  Jelen delivers.

Peter Jelen

Peter Jelen is a Canadian writer. He has spent the last six years living and working in Japan, China, and South Korea. He is the author of Better Than God, The Cure for Consciousness, and Impressions Of An Expatriate: China.



Poems cited here are assumed to be under copyright by the poet and/or publisher.  They are shown here for publicity and review purposes.  For any other kind of re-use of these poems, please contact the listed publishers for permission.

We here at TBOP are technically deficient and rely on our bashful Milo to fix everything.  We received notice from Google that we were using "cookies"
and that for our readers in Europe there had to be notification of the use of those "cookies.  Please be aware that TBOP may employ the use of some "cookies" (whatever they are) and you should take that into consideration.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

The Year of Our Beautiful Exile - Monica Kidd (Gaspereau Press)

Today's book of poetry:
The Year of Our Beautiful Exile.  Monica Kidd.  Gaspereau Press.  Kentville, Nova Scotia.  2015.

Today's book of poetry had the pleasure of writing about Monica Kidd's Handfuls of Bone (Gaspereau Press, 1012) back in January, 2014.  

It is our distinct pleasure to travel along with Kidd once more in The Year of Our Beautiful Exile.  These punchy poems get to the point and apparently Kidd doesn't mind us tagging along.

A Makeshift Martini Shaker

It requires an attitude of the wrist.
A flick of the hair, the bearing of Buster Keaton,
a love for the way white layers on white,
the way a word can be both sour and sweet
when served with a boar's head.
The way nothing is ever
quite what it seems.

An emphatic pumpf as the line cook peeps
out the porthole of a door that swings
both ways. Feet like water on
flagstones in old Montreal.


Monica Kidd's curiosity would kill several cats.  The Year of Our Beautiful Exile reads like an omnibus from some hip oracle priestess.  We here at Today's book of poetry like how Kidd talks.

You could hand this book out at a party and every reasonable person would like it, a lot.  But they'd all have different favourites.  Why?  Because somehow Monica Kidd writes poems that sound so true you simply think they have happened to you.  This is a very good trick.

The beetles in Madeira lie much concealed until the wind
lulls and the sun shines

Of evolution and what it said about God, geneticist J.B.S.
Haldane remarked, He must have an inordinate fondness
for beetles. For remove the soil, the houses, and asphalt, the
fighter planes and pop cans, the bed sheets; remove the
entire residue of man, and the earth would remain, a husk
of twitching bug feet. Set your mind to counting and come
back when you are old, and still the number would not be
great enough to hold them.


Today's book of poetry just has to admit it right out front.  Whatever Monica Kidd is interested in writing about - we are interested in reading.

This morning's read was a first.  Our Senior Editor, Max, came out of his office for the first time in over three years, walked to the middle of the floor with his copy of The Year of Our Beautiful Exile in hands and said "I've got this."

Then with almost perfect pitch he rattled them all off, the entire book, turned on his heels and went back to his office.  Milo, our head tech, said that he'd thought Max had retired.  Kathryn, our Jr. Editor, asked where the door had come from and who the strange man in our office was and why had she never seen him before.

I explained to Kathryn that Max lives on a diet of dictionaries, books of style and the solo recordings of Thelonious Monk.  

It is only natural that Max would admire The Year of Our Beautiful Exile, Monica Kidd has Monk like imagination, Thelonious wit.  She knows what to leave in, when to let your imagination fill in the blanks.

How The Body Remembers Joy

How you snug my hip with
two girls curled into sleep, my heart
humming an old tune it once heard,
a hundred times, the heat of a body
on a sofa never closer than brass strings
strummed against the night,
prowling at the windows.

My new love affair with F#:
the way it sits cock-eared
in the drum of my chest,
its sound of feet on earth, of quiet
rooms and a blank page, turning.

How the body remembers joy.
How the clocks stop.


 Monica Kidd writes with precision, compassion and wit and we can't get enough of that here at Today's book of poetry.  We were greatly impressed with Handfuls of Bone, The Year of Our Beautiful Exile only raises our expectations.  Kidd can cook with the best.

Monica Kidd

Monica Kidd grew up on the Alberta prairies. Her previous literary works include two novels (Beatrice and The Momentum of Red), a book of non-fiction (Any Other Woman: An Uncommon Biography) and two collections of poetry (Actualities and Handfuls of Bone). Her short experimental films have shown in Atlantic Canada and in Amsterdam. She has worked as a seabird biologist and as a reporter for CBC Radio, where her news items and documentaries have won numerous awards. Kidd presently lives in Calgary, Alberta, where, as well as writing, she works as a medical doctor and tends to her young family.



Poems cited here are assumed to be under copyright by the poet and/or publisher.  They are shown here for publicity and review purposes.  For any other kind of re-use of these poems, please contact the listed publishers for permission.

We here at TBOP are technically deficient and rely on our bashful Milo to fix everything.  We received notice from Google that we were using "cookies"
and that for our readers in Europe there had to be notification of the use of those "cookies.  Please be aware that TBOP may employ the use of some "cookies" (whatever they are) and you should take that into consideration.